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Gordon Bell: Information on the old The Computer Museum in Boston, MA

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Note:  This blog post was authored by Gordon Bell and edited by Alan J Weissberger.

The Computer Museum website is a place to view all the extensive material of The Computer Museum (which was relocated to Mt. View, CA in 116/97), whereby one can go immediately to an exhibit, event, etc. and 350+ files (10K pages) of computer history.

For the nostalgic visitor or historian, downloading the Museum Reports, 1979-1988 and Annual Reports 1988-1998 describe the events from the opening in 1975 at Digital and in Marlborough MA, though the museum’s move to Boston and eventually to Mountain View’s Moffett Field, CA. It is a work in progress that will continue to evolve and hopefully attract more content. However with all the files and publications, the files are valuable reference. 

The website is a living cyber museum providing accessibility to all aspects of The Computer Museum (c1979-2000) to the extent content was preserved.

Ideally, a visitor can walk along the timeline as a guide  to:

·         View and attend a lecture e.g. the first ones by JV Atanasoff, the inventor of the Atanasoff-Berry Computer

Or hear what the first useful stored program computer was and how it was programmed by Prof. Maurice V. Wilkes, of Cambridge U.  Or listen to Bob Noyce explain the first integrated circuit invention at the opening of TCM, Boston in  xxs, 1984.  Or a talk by me on The Computer Pioneers…

·         Replay or recall  the East-West Computer Bowls over their 10 year history.

View all the book of questions from this 1988-98 era when the web was born.

·         Visit the various exhibits

The large scale walk-through computer can be revisited with a guide Computer Chronicles toured TCM, Marlboro, MA in 1983

·         Marketing Material  is where you can download various press kits about  openings, store catalogs, and especially about 100 posters of pioneer lectures, the Computer Bowl, and Historical/Taxonomic trees.

·         The Museum Catalog (namely what are the museum’s holdings) as a publication.  Ed Thelen scanned the original  A Museum Catalog is itself an artifact of 20th century museums before search. The catalog was eventually published in the Reports (see 400 page compendium of all the reports xxx)

·         View all  the documents that described the Museum in roughly 350 scanned files: Reports, Annual Reports, posters announcing the lectures and pioneers, store catalogs, Timeline Posters and Product Trees, flyers, awards, PR releases, and more.

·         Backroom look at artifacts

·         Back Office working files used for design etc. All the available scanned  files including deliberation and sounds of gnashing of the teeth especially all the correspondence of Gordon Bell asking for support   Note some of the 30+ year ago, 1984 Asks (Begs( include Brook Byers, Ed DeCastro, Bill Gates, Bernie Gordon, Regis McKenna, Heinz Nixdorf Max Palevsky, Tom Perkins, Bill Perry, John Pierce, Ben Rosen, Al Shughart and many more.

·         Governance files of BOD, etc. especially later ones from Gardner Hendrie’s period as Chairman that he had retained.

·         A BLOG (TBD) Participate in a blog e.g. comments by former board members, comments re. particular artifacts, talks, etc.

The timeline is a nice  way to visit the TCM.

Note the 1000 x 15,000 pixels timeline on the site chronicling events and exhibits.

The goals is to be able to traverse it and to see and hear content of those days. You have to look at the items and then use some imagination but eventually all will be hot linked to something interesting to see/hear! We will be experimenting with wider, deeper, and different timelines—this one was events that were rendered from XLSX.

The Computer Museum, Boston on Wikipedia has the story of TCM.  Oliver Strimpel used archived items and made a really complete and compelling story Wikipedia.


A site search is still needed that will reveal the documents if you know a name or phrase. Also crawlers need a way to find it and its content. CHM will post a few links to enable the TCM part of the museum to be found (l think we can say/prove the museum will be 40 years old next year).

The site is beginning to fulfil a view of a Cyber Museum  being a dusty place that you might want to visit because you once visited it in physical space and want to see it again or get an artifact..

The particular joy of this site is that it is an experiment… so if you have something that you believe someone else associated with TCM will want, we’ll host it.


Computer History Museum: Celebrating 35 Years: Sept 26,2014

London Science Museum

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

The London Science Museum is opening its new Information Age Gallery on 24th October  2014 in the presence of  the Queen and Prince Phillip.


Computer History Museum: Celebrating 35 Years: Sept 26,2014

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014


The Computer History Museum (CHM) marked its 35th birthday on September 24, 2014. Visitors from around the world see an impressive set of exhibits, artifacts and come for the conversations, panel sessions and lectures.   One such panel took place on Sept 26th, with CHM co-founders Gordon Bell (Marlboro, MA 1975) and Len Shustek (Mt View, CA in 1996) presenting the museums history.  The panel was moderated by the indefatigable John Hollar, CHM CEO & President.

The CHM timeline can be viewed here.

Early History in MA by Gordon Bell:

The Museum has come a long way from a coat closet in Massachusetts to the beautiful multi-building permanent facility that today houses engaging exhibits and the largest collection of computing artifacts in the world.  Indeed, the first exhibit was in a converted closet at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) Building 12 in Maynard, MA.

In 1979 it officially became an exhibition site operated by DEC in Marlboro, MA.   It was then called the Digital Computer Museum (DCM).

Gordon’s wife Gwen, compiled the first catalog for the museum in 1981.  It listed all the museums collected artifacts.  Important acquisitions included:  the CDC 6600 mainframe computer, ENIGMA machine (used to encipher and decipher secret messages), pre-computer era artifacts like old giant calculators.  Referring to the catalog, Gordon Bell said,  “there was a collage of stuff we thought was in there (the museum).” He estimated ~ 150 artifacts had been collected at the DCM.

“We had a very good relationship with IBM,” Mr. Bell said.  “They had a lot of collections,” he added.  One of the most impressive ones was core memory, which became the DCMs “symbol.”

in 1982. the DCM incorporated as The Computer Museum (TCM)  which moved to Boston in 1984, located on Museum Wharf.

The museum ran a “Computer Bowl” which was an East-West contest for the best exhibits.  “Sort of like a college football bowl,” Gordon said.  The West won most of those contests- about 10 in all.

The museum published a book on The Best Software for Kids which was very popular.  Over time, the museum evolved into a children or teenager museum for learning about the history of computing.

Gordon showed a museum produced poster chronicling  the first 25 years of the microprocessor evolution.

Author’s Note: That must’ve been in the Fall of 1996, as the first commercially available microprocessor -the Intel 4004- was introduced in Fall of 1971.

Post 1996 History by Len Shustek:

Len vaguely knew of The History Museum in Boston in 1994-95 when he taught a computer class at Stanford (Len has a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford and MS, BS degrees in Physics from Brooklyn PolyTech).  He was surprised to find that computer history had been taken out of the course syllabus.  That was a shame.  He thought at the time:  “There’s a history Computer Science students should know about and appreciate.”

Therefore, Len started writing white papers and began exploring how to start a computer history museum on the west coast, preferably in the SF Bay area where he lived.  After extensive research, he was surprised to find that the only computer museum in the world was the one in Boston, MA.   Len met with Gordon Bell who suggested he be on the Board of Directors of TCM so he could “re-invent it” from a kids museum to one that adults could also appreciate.

During a period that spanned parts of 1996 and 1997,  TCM’s back room collection was relocated to Moffett Field (Mt View, CA).  It was housed in a building provided by NASA that was previously the Naval Base furniture store.  With Gwen’s help, a large number of artifacts were shipped from Boston to Moffet Field where they were stored in dirigible hangers.  Len got a “fork lift drivers license” to move the boxes around, but he never needed to do that.  Thank goodness!

A 1996 catalog only included 25% of the contents of the boxes that had been shipped. The first exhibit was visible storage.  Getting museum visitors was a challenge at Moffet Field.  A SF Examiner article referred to the museum as a “visible storage warehouse.”

Len and others thought that the museum should be housed outside of Moffet Field, even though NASA had planned to give two acres of land for a newly built CHM.  But NASA moved too slow to progress that plan.

In the aftermath of the dotcom bust in 2000-2001, there was lots of silicon valley real estate available at affordable prices, including the Silicon Graphics building where the museum is now located.   The CHM needed to borrow $25M in Oct 2002, hoping that future fund raising would help pay the loan off.  (In fact, most of the $25K has been paid off with interest).

In 2003, CHM opened its new building (previously occupied by Silicon Graphics), at 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd in Mt View, CA.   There’s seven acres of land and lots of parking spaces (although all may be taken for well attended events).

The CHM curators created Visible Storage v2.0 (earlier versions were in TCM in Boston as well as the computer museum at Moffet Field).  It was a great exhibit and talking tool which helped with fund raising.

In 2008, the CHM reinstituted the Fellows award which became quite popular. That same year, the museum ran out of space to hold all its artifacts.  So it bought a warehouse in Milpitas which is used to hold various artifacts, supplies and temporary exhibits.

Author’s Note:

Len didn’t get nearly as much air time as Gordon Bell during the 1 hour talk.  He wasn’t able to explain how he and his colleagues were able to transform the small museum at Moffet Field into the existing CHMs stellar collection of artifacts and world class exhibits as well as the very popular “conversations” and panel sessions.


Opportunity to Learn More:  Oct 9th IEEE meeting in Santa Clara, CA.

IEEE SV History Oct 9th meeting: Origins & History of the Computer History Museum
Given the importance of computers to our civilization, why are there so few museums dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history of the Information Age?  The Computer History Museum  (CHM) is the world’s leading institution exploring the history of computing and its ongoing impact on society.
In 2014 the museum celebrates its 35th anniversary, dated from its roots as The Computer Museum in Boston in 1979. Come hear its two leaders, the Chairman of the Board (Len Shustek) and the President/CEO (John Hollar), describe the joys, frustrations, and ultimate success of that odyssey.  

There are several interesting CHM stories that will be told for the first time, which will surely captivate the audience.  You’ll also get to learn about the professional lives of Len and John along with their passion and motivation for the history of computing.  That should be very interesting, informative and entertaining.

More information including bio’s and registration link is available here.





Ted Hoff: Significant Omissions from Malone’s Intel Trinity Book

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Written by Ted Hoff, PhD and edited by Alan J. Weissberger

Please refer to earlier post on Errors and Corrections to Malone’s book.

General omission:

Malone omits why I was hired at Intel as I was not a chip designer.  The reason was Bob Noyce’s view that LSI circuits were moving in the direction of systems on a chip, and that Intel should have some in-house systems engineering expertise.  Noyce asked Jim Angell, a EE Professor at Stanford who had consulted for Fairchild, to recommend some candidates.  I believe he gave Noyce three names, and I was the only one of those not working for Fairchild.  Noyce then called to invite me to join Intel.



1] 54 Gordon Moore’s reflow patent covered a significant step in making the silicon gate process manufacturable by preventing cracking of the metal layer and thereby improving yield.

2] 55 Malone mentions Max Palevsky, but omits his connection to Scientific Data Systems, of which he was a co-founder in 1961. He sold the company to Xerox in 1969. His opinions were especially valuable, coming from the perspective of a computer company executive.

3] 121 Creative confrontation should be attributed to Andy Grove–and the emphasis should be on “creative.”

4] 128 Andy Grove played a major role in establishing that R&D had to work hand in hand with production. All three men said that at Fairchild, R&D would develop some new process only to have production resist adopting it.

5] 129 Andy Grove instituted “management by objectives,” which required progress reports to include predictions of future developments as well as past accomplishments. In subsequent reports, accomplishments had to be compared with the prior predictions. That discipline helped Intel’s engineers and management become much better at predicting progress and scheduling product development.

6] 134 Why does Malone say that the 3101 semiconductor memory came out in less than 18 months after Intel’s founding when it was approximately one year?

7] 136 Malone’s quote of Gordon Moore’s description of MOS is somewhat garbled. Gordon was talking about Intel’s MOS, which used the silicon gate process, not most other companies’ MOS products, which used metal gate.

8] 138 Malone mentions flash memory, but how was it developed?

9] 138 Malone describes Gordon Moore’s goal for an 1102 DRAM replacement to have no overlap with the Honeywell design, but makes no mention of how that was to be done. See page 156 below for more details.

10] 146 Malone omits the differences between a calculator chip set and a CPU oriented chip set. Consider the typical calculator set using a printer, and including a printer control chip. Should it be desired to use a different printer, a new printer control chip would be required–involving circuit design, a new chip layout, chip manufacturing and testing, as well as circuit board design to use the new printer controller chip. Those steps might take months, and involve tens of thousands of dollars of research and development. With a CPU approach, the new printer would typically require an afternoon of programming, the wiring of a new connection cable and the burning of a new EPROM–all taking less than a day.

11] 149 Malone omits why Intel would consider undertaking a custom chip job–which had the potential of delaying its development of semiconductor memory, Intel’s primary corporate goal. The reason Intel took the custom chip project (from Busicom) was concern about the rate at which semiconductor memory would be adopted by its target customers and to generate needed revenue in the interim. A custom job was expected to generate revenue much more quickly than semiconductor memory components.

12] 149 The details of the Busicom agreement–60,000 kits, price per kit not to exceed $50.00 should be presented at this point in the narration, i.e. at the time of the April, 1969 agreement, not later.

13] 151 In the early days of Intel, Bob Noyce frequently discussed many concepts–various aspects of computers, possible ways to implement bipolar ROM (one led to a patent), and other new and useful ways to use semiconductor technology. Those discussions had nothing to do with microprocessor chip set definition, design or development.

14] 153 Malone claims Bob Noyce had gone renegade–but omits what Bob should have done regarding the Busicom agreement and its problems. Should he have abandoned the agreement and walked away from a multi-million dollar order that Intel needed, or should he have just gone ahead and risked bankrupting the company trying to fulfill the Busicom agreement?

15] 153 Malone is incorrect in stating I felt I lacked skill in software. He omits that Intel’s MOS design team used a simulation program I had written in much of their design work. That program, initially run on an outside time-sharing service, was used so much that eventually Intel purchased a PDP-10 computer system primarily to run that simulation program. I have a copy of a memo I had written in 1975, discussing the merits of some proposed changes to the program. That proves the program was still being used seven years after Intel started operations.

16] 153 Malone omits the series of steps proposed in an effort to simplify the Busicom chip set. They ultimately led to the 4004 architecture (which was not a copy of a minicomputer as Malone claims). Those steps included breaking down the floating point arithmetic into digit by digit steps by making greater use of ROM; then noting that BCD arithmetic could be done by combining a binary step with BCD correction, thereby allowing the underlying processor to be a binary device (simpler than BCD); replacing shift-register memory with DRAM, which would allow simplifying the memory control logic while speeding up operations and reducing transistors per bit from six to theree; and noting that a simple binary processor with ROM could perform many of the operations being implemented by separate chips.

Also omitted is a definition of a CPU as used at Intel: a CPU has two major sections: one performs program sequence control with instruction fetching and interpretation; the second performs data manipulation as specified by each fetched and interpreted instruction. Bit slice chips only performed a portion of the latter function.

17] 153 Malone mentions that the Intel concept developed by Stan Mazor and myself would be a 4-chip design, but omits that it was an alternate to Busicom’s 10 to 12 chip design yet would still perform all the functions provided by the Busicom set.

18] 154 Malone describes Bob Graham’s letter to Busicom of September 16, 1969, as a “note.” He omits that it included price quotes for kits based on Busicom’s chip set and for Intel’s proposed chip set. It also included specifications for Intel’s chip set as well as the proposed instruction set for what would become the 4004 CPU chip.

19] 154 In saying that the Intel approach would involve a lot of sofware yet to be written, Malone omits that the Busicom chip set also needed extensive software. It was expected that the routines replacing floating point arithmetic and the I/O chips would be written once, coded into one or more ROMs, and then that standard ROM set would be used in the various calculator models.

20] 156 Malone mentions the 1102 1K DRAM problems and erroneously states the 1103 1K DRAM would be based on the 1102 core. Les Vadasz had told me of the difficulty caused by the 1102s need for an intermediate voltage generator. That generator was required because the 1102 used a single word line that required three different operating levels: unselected, read selected and write selected. Generating the read selected level was the problem, so I suggested to Les that by using 2 word lines, i.e. separate read and write, the intermediate level could be eliminated, but at the cost of a somewhat larger memory cell. Les liked the idea and urged me to file for a patent on that approach. The patent issued may have been Intel’s first. It soon became known that certain types of coupling on the 1103 DRAM chip could cause memory loss due to induced bipolar transistor action–solved by adding substrate bias and using an 18-lead package. I understand my patent was the only one disclosing a 3-transistor DRAM cell for which substrate bias could be applied.

21] 166 In discussing some events of 1970, Malone omits that in January, 1970 Bob Graham and I predicted that semiconductor memory would replace magnetic core menory in an Electronic Products magazine article. This article states that semiconductor memory would be priced below a penny per bit by 1972, at which point magnetic core memory could not be able to compete (despite its advantage of inherent non volatility).

22] 179 Malone mentions using established programming languages to make microprocessors work, but omits how that was accomplished. Intel found various ways to develop support for them–including Gary Kildall’s development of PL/M.

23] 179 In discussing marketing for the microprocessors, Malone cannot seem to understand that there were markets other than replacing mainframe computers or minicomputers. Within Intel, we were developing a story to tell to a new class of customers. Faggin and I had discovered that the MCS-4 chip set was fantastic for solving logic design problems, e.g. Faggin had to build testers, and I had to build programmers for PROMs and EPROMs. We concluded that, if we as engineers find microprocessors so useful, there will be many more engineers out there that would feel the same way.

24] 182 Bob Graham’s “Intel Delivers” campaign included a policy of not talking about a product until it was on distributor’s shelves. Until that happened, many LSI products from other companies were touted, but were not (or never became) available.

25] 187 Malone, in discussing the goal of increasing the clock speed for an upgrade to the 8008, fails to adequately cover the role of Intel’s newly developed n-channel silicon gate process–inherently faster than the previous p-channel technology and the primary reason that clock rates could be increased.

26] 188 Malone mentions Intel’s board having objections to the microprocessor as diverting focus from semiconductor memory product development. One reason for the board’s concern was that entering the computer business could be perceived by memory customers as competition for their business. Those of us who wanted the microprocessor announced argued that we could avoid that impression if we did not tout microprocessors as replacing our computer customer’s systems. It soon became evident that even big computer vendors needed little controllers throughout their systems. Many had such processors on their drawing boards at the time Intel came out with its microprocessors. Those computer customers quickly adopted Intel microprocessor devices to meet their needs. Consider that even the IBM PC used a microcontroller just to communicate with its keyboard. If one purchased IBMs dot matrix printer with an IBM PC, that printer also contained a microcontroller. Thus an IBM PC with that printer would have two embedded controllers compared to one PC type microprocessor.

27] 191 Malone argues that marketing produced endless manuals, etc. The error in that statement was addressed in the previous blog post on “errors and corrections.” However, Malone omits that the user guide for the 4004 was written by Stan and myself.

28] 192 Malone expresses amazement that the EPROM was non-volatile, but omits what was really unique about it. All ROMs were non-volatile, but the EPROM was “field programmable” and could be reused after erasure. MOS ROMs were only available from a semiconductor manufacturer and were “mask programmed.” Bipolar PROMs were only programmable once. Therefore, the EROM was much more flexible for the user as it could be reprogrammed in the field and didn’t have to be discarded if there were changes to be made or programming errors (bugs) detected. Please see next omission on pg 192.

29] 192 Malone fails to understand the benefit of the EPROM. Before it, MOS ROMs had to be ordered from the semiconductor manufacturer–a process which could take weeks. The customer had to send his firmware to the factory which would make a mask containing that firmware, then wafers would be processed using that mask. Those wafers would be sorted, separated into chips, packaged and then tested again. Intel charged $600 for the first three units, then subsequent orders had a 50 piece minimum quantity at $25.50 per unit. With the EPROM a customer could debug his code and reprogram on the spot, a process taking less than a day, rather than weeks. The C1702 quartz-lid EPROM sold for $81 in single unit quantity (prices as of September 1972).

30] 192 Before Intel offered the Intellec development tools, it offered SIM boards which had been developed by my group. They appear in the Sept. 1972 price list. Marketing had originally wanted to give them away, but I argued that we should sell them because customers would need such a device for their microprocessor development and it would cost them more to develop it themselves than what we could sell them for while still making a tidy profit. If we didn’t charge for development aids, we would ultimately see them as a burden on profits and discontinue them.

31] 192 Malone’s comment that Intel’s microprocessor development systems would have outsold personal computers neglects the cost difference. To compete in the PC market, Intel would have had to reduce prices by an order of magnitude from what they could charge for a development system, which was sold in small quantities (often just one) to each customer developing microprocessor applications.

32] 192 Intel’s 1972 annual report stated that its 1103 DRAM was the largest selling semiconductor memory in the world.

33] 193 From the time the 8008 microprocessor came out, its sales volume grew exponentially over time. We had expected those sales to drop away rapidly after the 8080 microprocessor was announced (and shipped to customers), but instead 8008 sales just stopped rising–they continued at a steady rate for quite some time.


Ted Hoff: Errors & Corrections in Intel Trinity book by Michael Malone

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Editor’s NOTE:  This article was written by Ted Hoff, PhD EE and edited by Alan J. Weissberger, Chairman of the IEEE SV History Committee.

From Ted Hoff:

The errors listed below are in approximately the same order as they appear in Malone’s book. To aid the reviewer, chapters are identified in brackets.

[CH 14]

As of 1969, “CPU on a chip” was discussed in the electronics literature, but generally thought to be some time away–most CPUs were just too complex for the state of the semiconductor art at that time. Therefore, at the beginning of 1969, the microprocessor did not cross from “theory to possibility”–it was still not seen as feasible due to the limitations in the LSI processes. The state of the art was such that Intel’s 1101, a 256 bit MOS static RAM, was on the drawing board.

[Editor’s Note: In addition to Intel, at least two systems companies- Fairchild Systems Technology and Four Phase Systems were designing “MOS LSI microprocessor” chip sets for internal use in late 1969. Fairchild’s was for use as a micro-controller in its Sentry semiconductor tester systems. Four Phased Systems designed the AL1—an 8-bit bit slice CPU chip, containing eight registers and an ALU for use in their data terminals.]

Malone claims Busicom came to Intel to seek a CPU on a chip, but that claim is proved false by the fact that Busicom engineers rejected every suggestion that might have moved them in that direction. Their only interest was in a calculator chip set, and a calculator set is not a CPU.

Malone is also wrong in claiming I was thinking about a CPU on a chip at the time of the Busicom project. He is also wrong in claiming I had used minicomputers to design ICs before joining Intel. I had not used any computer smaller than the IBM 1130, which was typically a room-full installation. My only experiece with IC design was participating in a trial course at Stanford, where a partial layout of a few transistors was done with no usage of computers of any kind.

Representing the PDP-10 as a minicomputer is wrong–the PDP-10 was DECs top of the line mainframe. DECs PDP-8 was a minicomputer but its architecture was not appropriate for the Busicom project, and implying I used it is incorrect. The PDP-8 was a 12-bit word machine, and was not suitable for programs in ROM because of the way it processed subroutines.

I was not looking to build a general purpose processor. I did not “volunteer” to “manage” Busicom–I was asked to act as liaison, to assist the Busicom team achieve their technology transfer. I was willing to take it on, although refusing the request probably would have been unwise at this early time in my employment.

Malone’s implication I expected Busicom to request a computer-on-a-chip is a fabrication. I never expected that.

Stating that Busicom’s design had “morphed” into a “monster” from a more straightforward design is incorrect. Prior to the arrival of the Busicom team we had not seen details of their design–and upon seeing the details it seemed more difficult than we had been led to believe at the April meetings. Referring to me as “project director” is incorrect.

Citing the terms of the agreement between Intel and Busicom after the arrival of the Busicom engineers is misleading. The agreement, i.e. 60,000 chip sets (to be specified by Busicom at a later time) were to be sold by Intel at a price not to exceed $50.00, was signed in April, some two months before the Busicom engineering team arrived.  The agreement was not revisited after the Busicom engineers arrived at Intel.

Stating that the Intel/Busicom design would fail “catastrophically” and Intel would be left “high and dry” misrepresents my conclusions. Rather I was concerned that it would be difficult to meet the cost targets because of package requirements and chip complexity, and that the number and complexity of chips needed would burden Intel’s limited design staff such that it could impact our work on memory.

I never considered that Busicom was “blowing” a product opportunity, nor did I know how to fix the problems at this time. These statements are just more of Malone’s fabrication. After I took my concerns to my immediate supervisor, Bob Noyce, he suggested I try to see if there might be a way to simplify the set and authorized me to work with the Busicom engineers. At that point in time there were no discussions of applications other than the Busicom calculators. My work amounted to making a few suggestions as to how some simplifications might be accomplished. The Busicom team listened, but preferred to do their own simplifcation. They did take time to critique some of my ideas, pointing out where problems might arise.

Malone insists that my work was a secret, but if it were, how could the Busicom engineers cite what it lacked?

Malone states I was burning up time, and working on a small-chip concept. That is not what was happening at all. Busicom had its own approach, and I was suggesting some modifications that I felt would make the job easier. Part of my job assignment at this time  was to work with the Busicom engineers and with Bob Noyce’s assent, felt justified in learning more of Busicom’s design to see where some reduction in complexity might be found.

Stating that I was telling Bob Noyce I wanted to emulate a computer is another fabrication. I did make use of my knowledge of computers and how complex problems are solved using programs in the effort to simplify the chip set. The set already had read-only-memory (ROM) and the most obvious ways to simplify the set seemed to be to move some functions from hardware to ROM. That is not the same as starting from  scratch with a general-purpose CPU. When Shima,, objected that some function was missing, I would show how code in ROM could implement that function when using a simplified structure. The Busicom chip set already needed firmware, so my suggestions only involved some modest additional coding.

My discussions with Noyce were about chip set simplification and the Busicom engineers reluctance to consider my suggestions. I was not trying to emulate a computer, rather to use computer-like techniques to simplify the set. Noyce encouraged me to continue even if the Busicom team was not ready to accept my proposals, as a possible back-up to what the Busicom team was developing.

Noyce’s questions about operating systems etc. are taken out of  context. Bob would come around quite frequently and talk about many issues, including computer technology. I believe he wanted to become more comfortable when talking to Intel memory customers, i.e. computer manufacturers. The discussion of operating system concepts had nothing to do with microprocessors at this point in time.

Malone’s claim I reported to Andy Grove is false! As noted above, I reported to Bob Noyce, and Bob was the only Intel signatory on the  April agreement. In my 14 years at Intel, I never reported directly to Grove. One more Malone fabrication.

There was no “skunk-works operation.” I did not give up working with the Busicom team nor cease trying to suggest simplifications to their design.

I was not needed to get the 1101 256 bit static RAM/semiconductor memory “out the door.”

Malone goes to great length to criticize Bob Noyce’s actions saying he had signed off on an unproven product that had a “tiny” chances of success? Noyce had just encouraged me to continue trying to get some simplification of the Busicom chip set to which we had already committed–any simplification would have improved the chance of success.

Malone says the simplified chips were for a “market that might never exist.” He apparently forgot about those 60,000 chip sets we had  agreed to deliver–and my work represented only a possible simplification of their set requirements, and was a possible backup should Busicom’s engineers be unsuccessful in solving their complexity problem.

I was not at this point pursuing a processor design. However, every attempt to simplify the Busicom set tended to move me in the direction of a more general purpose–more programmable architecture.

Malone claims Bob gone “renegade” on his own company–just because he authorized work toward making a customer’s requirements more compatible with his own company’s? I believe most would consider his decision a prudent way to try to keep the Busicom project something that might benefit Intel.

I did not work mostly alone as Malone states–I continued discussions with the Busicom team, and was in communication with the MOS designers to ensure any suggestion I might make was consistent with Intel’s MOS design capability. I had other tasks as well, but in general did not involve putting out “fires.” The closest event to a “fire” was just before the first 1101 wafers with a chance of working were to come out of fab. Andy told me that functional testers weren’t ready and asked if I could help. I threw together a very crude tester over the weekend, and used it to test two wafers. We found 13 good devices on one, two on the other, and celebrated with champagne.

My work on the Busicom project took more like two rather than three months, i.e. July and August, 1969. By the end of that period, the suggestions I had been making pretty much added up to the architectural structure for what would be the 4004 CPU.

Malone continues to insist the project was secret, and then claims that working with a customer to match its requirements to Intel’s capabilities was a potential scandal. If so, perhaps all engineering should be outlawed?

Malone incorrectly states I hired Stan Mazor, because I felt deficient in software. In fact, Stan had been working in computer architecture, and at last I would have someone I could collaborate with. Most of the architecture, etc. was done by the time Stan arrived, but he could help put the whole package together.

Unlike Malone’s implication, I had been in frequent communication with Bob Graham, and again the project was not secret.

I did not have much to do with the 1102 (Intel’s first 1K DRAM), other than hearing about its problems from Les Vadasz. Malone falsely states the 1103 1K DRAM used the 1102 “core” in spite of earlier statements to the effect Gordon Moore wanted the 1103 to be independent of the 1102.

The “new project” passage gets twisted by previous errors. Andy Grove may have been upset with a new burden, but this task just represented the Busicom obligation coming due, not really a “new” project.

[CH 15]

Malone argues that Faggin was the only one who could have designed the 4004 chip set, but consider that it was if anything less complex than some of the chips of the original Busicom calculator set. One of the reasons Intel was chosen by Busicom was that it was perhaps the only semiconductor company not yet doing calculator chips for Busicom competitors. How did those semiconductor companies get their calculator chips designed?  For example, Mostek designed a single-chip calculator for Busicom, as reported in the February, 1971 issue of Electronics magazine. That chip had 2100 transistors, which was very close to the 4004 transistor count.

Bootstrap circuits were well known in metal gate MOS, where gate overlap could be controlled. Initially there were questions of silicon gate applicability to shift registers because they used such techniques. Intel found it could make shift registers using silicon gate MOS, and offering shift registers played a role in forging the connection to CTC.

The set of four chips was officially known as the MCS-4 family. The 4004 was a CPU on a chip, because the other chips in the set were memory and I/O. The interface logic on the 4001 and 4002 chips helped to eliminate the “glue logic” that subsequent microprocessors needed–thus making the 4004 more of a single-chip CPU than subsequent microprocessors. Later the 4008 and 4009 chips were provided to perform the glue logic function and allow non-family memory chips to be used with the 4004 as well.

Malone’s explanation of bytes and digits is incorrect. Proper terms are: bit (has only two states), a nibble (4 bits), a digit (4-bits for Binary Coded Decimal (BCD);  limited to the range from 0 to 9), a byte (8 bits) and a word (can be many different bit lengths). The 4004 was a 4-bit processor, not a 4-digit processor.   Modern microprocessors are typically 32 or 64 bits, not digits. Also one must separate data quantum size from data path width. For example, the 8088, used in the original IBM PC, processed most data in 16-bit sizes, but used a data path/bus only 8-bits wide.

Stan Mazor was more than a computer programmer. At the time of the dual presentation meeting (pg 154) the CPU of the Intel proposal consisted of two chips, designated “arithmetic” and “timing.” Later Stan suggested combining the two–leading to a true CPU on a chip.

Again Malone mis-labels the MCS-4 work as secret. The only resources involved until MOS design began were the modest efforts of Stan and myself. Had Intel been required to design and manufacture the original Busicom chip set, Faggin and Shima would have needed considerable extra design staff–or would have taken several more years to complete the set. Consider that the MCS-4 family was one complex logic chip, two memory chips, and one fairly simple I/O expander. Even the reduced Busicom set would have been 8 complex logic chips and two memory chips.

On pages 252-253, Malone notes that 1975 had been the most miserable year to date for Intel. and the “company’s factory in Peking, a key part of the manufacturing, burned to the ground.” A U.S. company having a factory in Peking (now known as Beijing) in 1975 would have been quite unusual–China was still closed to the rest of the world and the U.S. didn’t have diplomatic relations with China till January 1, 1979 .  That Intel factory was actually in Penang, Malaysia (Source: Intel 1975 Annual Report). The 1975 Intel report goes on to note that a massive effort allowed them to recover with minimum problems for their customers. It also noted that insurance claims were being filed.

[CH 16]

There is no indication Intel would have gone into the microprocessor business without the Busicom project. It is more likely that companies making logic sets, e.g. TTL, would have ultimately made the first CPU on a chip. They would have made increasingly complex slice chips, and added program sequence controllers, then finally combined all.

[ch 17]

Again, Malone mistates the nature of the 1103 1K DRAM.  It was not built on the Honeywell core.

Malone wrongly asserts that Bob Noyce had taken on a long-shot project that was secret, etc.–all fabrication.

[ch 18]

Malone is wrong in stating I lobbied against announcing, I only cautioned against overselling. I urged we identify new uses for computers, for example those that had been done by relays, SSI/MSI logic, etc.

The argument about customers needing to learn programming was an urge to offer certain types of support, not in opposition to announcing the product.

Stan Mazor who was the primary contact with Computer Terminal Corp. (CTC).  It was Stan who made the proposals to them, not myself.

Hal Feeney reported to Les Vadasz, he was not one of my “subordinates.”

Malone took a comment about computers as big expensive pieces of equipment way out of context. There were some skeptics who had a difficult time grasping the concept that a computer could be inexpensive. Fortunately, they were in a minority.

Malone talks of throwing away a $400 chip set. Why would one throw away a whole set if only one chip is bad? If the CPU chip was tossed, it would represent $30.00 (100 quantity) as of Sept. 1972.

I never lobbied against marketing the microprocessors, only against claiming them to be minicomputer replacements.  Again Malone is wrong in these assertions.

Minicomputers of that day were about the size of a portable TV set, or the traditional “breadbox,” not a couple of refrigerators as Malone states. They cost about $10,000, not a couple of hundred thousand dollars as Malone claims.

A 4004 microprocessor chip set, consisting of the four chips, cost $136 in single quantity in Sept. 1972, – not $400. In 100 quantity, that set cost $63.

We were not offering the set(s) to replace mainframes–it was a new market, extending computing power into areas unthinkable a few  years prior to that time.  For many years, the industry refers to that market as “embedded control.” It should be noted that minicomputers were not replacements for mainframe computers either. Minicomputers created new markets for computers in many industries, including process control, laboratory instrumentation, test systems, etc.

Malone reports Bob Graham’s comments in regard to minicomputers and market share out of context. Those comments came much earlier in 1971, regarding the issue of whether Intel should offer the chips as part of its product line, not at the time that marketing plans were being  developed.

Inside of Intel, the engineering side (e.g. Faggin and myself) saw tremendous potential – not for replacing big mainframe computers–but for what the industry refers to as embedded control.  For example, Faggin needed to build LSI testers, and I needed to build an EPROM programmer.  Microprocessor control made those jobs an order of magnitude easier than if we had used random logic and/or discrete components. We strongly believed there were other engineers (outside of Intel) that felt the same way we did about using microprocessors for (many) different types of embedded control applications.

Mainframe computers were solid state, but most were of a significantly higher level of performance than the first generation of microprocessors.   Most mainframes in the 1970’s and 80’s used ultra high speed Emitter Coupled Logic (ECL) for the CPU, which provided orders of magnitude higher performance than MOS microprocessors did in those years.

Mainframes were never our target market for the MCS4, 8008, 8080 or other MOS LSI microprocessors.

When I travelled on business with Bob Noyce, it was usually about memory. There was one major microprocessor promotional event, in 1972. Stan and I took three one-week trips over a period of five weeks, presenting the microprocessor concept. Attendance was well above original expectations and our message was very well received.

[ch 19]

Malone is wrong in stating the 8008 microprocessor was a “turbocharged” version of the 4004–in many applications the 8008 was slower than the 4004. Malone defends his statement with many erroneous numbers.

The 4004 clock speed was 740 kHz, not 108. The correct number was noted earlier in Malone’s book. The 8008 clock speed was 500 kHz, not 800. The 800 kHz speed was that of a later speed selected version of the 8008, known as the 8008-1, not yet available as of September, 1972. Further, the 8008 took two clock steps to do what the 4004 did in one.

Thus it was typically slower than the 4004, even at doing 8-bit arithmetic, and it needed a lot more glue logic than the 4004.

We had not been unsuccessful with the 4004.  The 4004 announcement in the Electroic News and at the 1971 Fall Joint Computer Conference generated a greater response than just about any other Intel advertisement

Again, Malone talks of replacing mainframes. He seems clueless about the area that was emerging, today called embedded control. At one meeting of microprocessor pioneers held in the 1990s, Shima reported microcontroller usage for embedded control was at least an order of magnitude greater than the use of microprocessors for PCs.

At Intel, designers sometimes called to see if we could help with a problem, and many of those calls were routed to me. One customer needed to get data from the bottom of an oil well–I asked him if he had heard about our microprocessors? He had not, so I had Intel marketing send him data, and soon we had another customer.

Malone is wrong in stating the 8008 was four chips, it was one. And The 8080 had moved some 8008 on-chip features off-chip, so it had somewhat greater memory needs than the 8008.

On-board ROM memory for the 8080 is incorrect–the 8080 still required external ROM for programs.

While the 8080 was introduced officially by Intel in April 1974, there had been pre-announcement activity and pre-announcement sales–an exception to Intel’s earlier policy. I’ve heard that at least 2,000 8080 devices were presold at a price of $360 each, such that development was fully paid for before the device was announced.

NOTE: This editor also heard same thing in March 1974. He presented the keynote speech and was on a microprocessor panel with Intel engineer Phil Tai at an early March 1974 IEEE Conference in Milwaukee, WI.  Mr. Tai described the 8080 and planned support chips BEFORE the parts were formally announced by Intel several months later. “$360 was the single quantity price for the 8080.” he said at the time.


I did not consider my discussion with Bob Noyce as “almost shouting”–I just quietly pointed out that a postponement was actually a decision not to proceed at that time. It is also misleading to put this item here in the narration, as it occurred in the summer of 1971.

Malone statement “endless manuals” is very misleading. For the MCS-4 there was a data sheet of 12 pages, covering all 4 chips: CPU, ROM, RAM and I/O expander. The data sheet for the 3101A, a single chip in its second generation, ran 8 pages. We offered a MCS-4 user guide, some 122 pages, which taught how to use the family in many applications. But we also offered memory design handbooks to help customers with those products. The August, 1973 version ran to some 132 pages. We did produce a 6-page index-card sized quick reference that could fit in a shirt pocket. In visiting customers, it was always gratifying to hear them praise Intel’s level of support.

Malone claims the EPROM was unusual in that is was a non-volatile ROM.  By design, all EPROM/ROMs were non-volatile so they could retain stored information with no power applied.   They were intended to serve as instruction/program memory (AKA “firmware”) for micro-controller applications.  It is hard to imagine a more useless component than a volatile ROM.  

Malone totally misrepresents the advantages offered by the EPROM. Before it, a customer using a MOS ROM had to send code to the semiconductor factory, where a mask would be made, wafers processed, then sorted, separated, packaged and tested again. The procedure could take weeks. With the EPROM, a customer could load his firmware into it by himself, not have to order parts from the factory with the code already installed. The customer could debug his code, make corrections, and erase and reuse his EPROM, all in about an hour, not weeks.

Malone states for 1972 Intel had $18 million in revenue and was unprofitable. According to Intel’s 1972 annual report, the company had over $23 million in revenue and over $1.9 million in profit.

Malone states Intel’s 1972 staff could fit in a large conference  room. Intel’s 1972 annual report noted 1002 employees, so it would have been quite a large conference room.

Malone describes me coming back from speeches noting a “sea change.” After the tour of 1972 I gave relatively few speeches, and never saw a “sea change.”

The 8080 was not the first single chip microprocessor–it required more glue logic chips than the 4004. The 4004 was the first commercially available, single chip microprocessor.

Malone claims Intel gave no credit to Faggin for 30 years. Again wrong! Bob Noyce and I co-authored an article for the initial issue of IEEE Micro magazine (February, 1981) in which we gave credit to Faggin and Shima, and included a photo of Shima. A  November/December 1981 issue of Solutions (A Publication of Intel Corporation) states that the microprocessor chip design proceeded in 1970 under the guidance of Dr. Federico Faggin. and that Dr. Faggin would later found one of the most innovative microprocessor firms, Zilog, Inc


Summary & Conclusions:

From my read of the Intel Trinity book, it seems that Malone gets some idea or notion in his head, then does not let reality interfere with his fantasies.  He appears to assume my motive was to do a CPU on a chip, regardless of its consequences to Intel, and that for some unknown reason Bob Noyce acquiesced.  In reality, I was just trying to simplify a chip set we had already agreed to manufacture and sell.  It just happened that to achieve the most simplification, a simple processor turned out to be the best solution for the Busicom calculator project.

Malone evidently can’t comprehend embedded control, which in terms of numbers accounts for much more usage of microprocessors than PCs. He cannot seem to grasp there are any uses for computers of any type, minicomputer, microprocessor, microcontroller, other than as mainframe replacement, when even minicomputers did not perform that function.  Minicomputers were mostly used for control of real time systems, like supervisory and process control in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Not as mainframe replacements for heavy duty number crunching.

Note: the Editor worked on a minicomputer controlled integrated circuit test system at Raytheon Digital System Lab from 1968-69 and from 1970-73 on a minicomputer command & control/telemetry system for the Rinconda (Santa Clara County) water treatment plan.   Later, many process control, machine and device controller functions used one or more microprocessors, which replaced minicomputers and lots of random logic.

[Weissberger’s paper on Microprocessor Control in the Processing Plant was published in an IEEE Journal in 1974-75 and is available for download on IEEE Xplore.]

By being unable to comprehend any usage for microprocessors other than in PCs, Malone misses the major use of microprocessors, especially embedded control in the early to late 1970s. The amazing fact is that microprocessors became commercially available in 1971 (MCS4 chip set), but PC’s didn’t come out till the late 1970s- early 1980s (the IBM PC was introduced in summer of 1981).   So how could early microprocessors be directed at PCs when none existed till 1977 and the industry really didn’t gain traction till the IBM PC in 1981?


Note: The next article in this series will be on the glaring omissions/credit not given in Malone’s Intel Trinity book. While the author of this article (Ted Hoff) is most noted for his co-invention of the microprocessor, his work at Intel on semiconductor memories and LSI codec/filters were at least, if not more important. That can be verified by the IEEE CNSV Oct 2013 panel session on Intel’s transition to success. Here are some links related to this event:

Full event video
Program Slides
Five photos from the event
Event Summary
National Geographic 1982 Story “The Chip”


Author Michael Malone at the Commonwealth Club: The Story Behind Intel

Inventor Ted Hoff’s Keynote @ World IP Day- April 26, 2013 in San Jose, CA